Unpopular Opinions: College Advice

Mary McLoughlin
Opinion Editor

Before starting college, I obsessively checked listicles and advice blogs to figure out how to succeed at being a human being. If you’re a first-year student (or a fifth-year who still doesn’t have it together), you might be in the same boat right now. I fell down a few rabbit holes, and got a really warped idea of what college is supposed to be like. While there’s a lot of really good advice out there (like don’t wear your lanyard!), this is not what this column is. I polled my friends, and I’d like to share with you the worst advice they received when starting UD.

  1. Pick a major that will line up directly with a job that you want.

You don’t know what you or the world will look like by the time you’re ready to be an adult in it. Your parents probably want you to do something practical⁠—and there’s some merit to this⁠—but if you learn to do the kind of things that you love doing, you’ll have a skillset that will continue to make joy available to you no matter how your opportunities expand and change.  

  1. Listen to your heart.

I am all about following the things that make you feel happy, but there’s also an argument to be made for choosing some things that will make you grow. Just because something scares you, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. Trust your gut, but also listen to the advice of people who know you too.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
  1. Get your gen eds “out of the way.”

Learn from your gen eds! If a class seems irrelevant to what you want to do, it might seem like the kind of thing you can brush off. But if you think a certain way of seeing the world has no place in your life, it probably means that you have the most to learn from that perspective. One of the classes I dreaded taking the most was geology, but on the first day of that class, my professor told us that he was going to find a documentary about glaciers instead of teaching us about them because he had never seen one in real life. He explained that his policy is only to teach about the things he’s put his hands and feet on. While I care very little about rocks, I’ve learned a lot from his reverence and respect for the world and the limits of his knowledge.

  1. Take as many classes as you can, unrelated to your major, to expand your skill set.

You are a person not a resume. Take the kind of variety that makes you the fullest human, but don’t do things to check boxes. 

  1. Go out as much as possible.

Going out is fun, but it’s not the only way to have fun. Living in a place where so much is happening makes it feel like everytime you’re not a part of the noise, you’re missing out. But in the end, you miss out on so much more if you try to build your social life around repeating the same kind of experiences. Make the kind of friends who you enjoy being around in more than just one kind of social setting, and get on the Flyer with them at least once a month. 

Photo courtesy of Pexels
  1. Put your email down for everything at Up the Orgs.

Quality over quantity. Pick something you can commit to and invest in. Getting over-involved makes everything you do feel like a burden. Ultimately, you’re getting involved in stuff for you. Make sure your activities are nurturing you.

  1. Plan to study three hours for every one hour you are in class. 

You’ll probably have to work a lot harder in college than you did in high school, but that’s an excuse to sleep more and not less. A person studying for one hour is much more effective than a zombie studying for three.

  1. College is not like high school; your professors won’t care about you.

High school teachers always threaten students with the fact that college is not like high school. They’re right, but that doesn’t mean it gets worse. In my experience, professors have treated me like a person instead of babying me. While this means they spend less time holding your hand, in my experience, it also means they’ve taken our relationship seriously and have been accommodating to needs I’ve maturely communicated.

  1. College is for finding the love of your life. 

College is finding the kind of friends that introduce you to Lizzo and make you believe that you’ve been it.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
  1. It’s the best years of your life.

College is great and fun and special, and you should invest everything you can in making the most of one of the only spaces where you’re old enough to buy your own Cheez-Its and young enough to eat them for breakfast. But also, know that your world will be so much bigger than your porch, and that’s exciting too.

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.